Ideology and "Psychology", was Re: identifying with the enemy

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Sat May 19 03:54:07 PDT 2001

Carrol wrote:

>I suspect this confusion between being wrong and being (somehow) "wrong
>as a person" -- irrational or weird -- was at the source of Gordon's
>absurdities on the POW/MIA question. (As I pointed out at the time, he
>is probably quite wrong, empirically, in his demographics, but for the
>purposes of the present argument we can assume he is correct in his
>rough-and-ready sociological description of the "believers" in the myth
>of the MIAs.) He assumed that if his "trailer-park and tract home"
>people were _wrong_ about the MIAs, then they were, as people, weird or
>irrational -- i.e., that one could only respect them as people by
>somehow or other respecting the content of their beliefs. But that is
>outrageous condescension. Doug, in his frequent references to my
>arrogance, etc. also illustrates this trap -- I comment on the _content_
>of someone's thought, _not_ on the person, Doug replies by commenting on
>my alleged psychology rather than on the content of my argument.

The confusion you speak of -- the false equations of making an error with being a bad or stupid person & of correcting an error with condemning a person as bad or stupid -- is also noted by Mark Edmundson in "On the Uses of a Liberal Education I: As Lite Entertainment for Bored College Students":

***** Students frequently come to my office to tell me how intimidated they feel in class; the thought of being embarrassed in front of the group fills them with dread. I remember a student telling me how humiliating it was to be corrected by the teacher, by me. So I asked the logical question: "Should I let a major factual error go by so as to save discomfort?" The student -- a good student, smart and earnest -- said that was a tough question. He'd need to think about it. *****

The dread that Edmundson mentions must originate in the aforementioned confusion. Having an error pointed out by someone shouldn't be an occasion for feeling humiliated, and pointing out an error shouldn't be a chance for humiliating a person who made it. As long as the confusion doesn't get cleared up, we end up letting "a major factual error go by so as to save discomfort" & moreover foregoing productive discussion of any topic over which a controversy exists.

Last but not the least, sometimes, having errors pointed out literally saves lives (recall the recent threads on medical errors).


More information about the lbo-talk mailing list